Fifteen defendants from Springdale were sentenced to a combined 77 years in prison Thursday for a massive Northwest Arkansas drug trafficking scheme.
Multiple state and local law enforcement agencies have been carrying out Operation La Pantera Negra over the last two years, prosecuting 31 suspects over that time frame. Authorities have seized 118 pounds of methamphetamine, $82,000 in cash, 16 vehicles and 12 firearms during the investigation, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In the particular case concerning the 15 defendants, Drug Enforcement Agency agents conducted several undercover meth purchases in February 2011. Officers later recovered 20 pounds of meth from a Fayetteville home.
The following February, agents seized 83 pounds of methamphetamine from a stash house in Dallas, along with $48,000 and six vehicles.
A federal grand jury indicted 15 defendants the next month, on charges of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, distribution of methamphetamine and money laundering. All defendants pleaded guilty to various charges.
The main defendants, Celen Zendjas and Eberardo Coria-Hernandez, were sentenced to 28 years and 10 years in prison, respectively.
The other 13 defendants and their sentenced time in prison include:
- Wilber Alvarenga, 31 – Four years
- Gregorio Carranza, 28 – Four years
- Rodolfo Carrillo, 41 – 1 year supervised release
- Porfirio Castro-Ruiz, 47 – Two years, three months
- Donna Daosavanh, 24 – Three years
- Omar Frias, 30 – Three-and-a-half years
- Dianna Gandert, 28 – Four years
- Jose Herrera, 26 – Five years
- Marlene Martinez, 27 – Five years, two months
- Jose Mejia-Machado, 44 – Seven years
- Tamera Rivera, 31 – Two-and-a-half years
- Jeffery Ruano, 26 – One year
- Ana Vaca-Gomez, 34 – Seven years, three months